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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 8th, 2015, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

To all reading this,

Greetings!

I started playing and following professional tennis in 1990, the year and Helena Sukova and Jana Novotna almost won the Grand Slam in doubles. Though my memory may be grainy at times , I believe I was drawn to backing Helena because I liked her name and her dominance that year. My upbringing (and personality?) fed a desire for utter domination. I may have been happy for my favorites to win double bagels all through a tournament!

The truth is that I don't think I saw much of Helena (or any of her??) on American television until her great 1993 US Open, but I remained one of her supporters nonetheless. I was able to ballboy for her at the 1997 Ameritech Cup in Chicago, but she was on the verge of retirement and not near her peak. I spotted her in the crowd at the Prague Open in 2005, and she graciously posed for a photograph with me. DVDs and the internet have enabled me to see much more of her playing, and my initial impression that she was quite slow was sometimes erased by her stellar attacking play that made her seem a big threat. I found her 1984 Australian Open final to be a tight match in which she could have grabbed a major singles title.

The reason I have opened this thread is to encourage information, impressions, and stories about her. As a bit of a secret bonus (in my mind; maybe it's only there ), I am promising to fulfill a task I set for myself about ten years ago. Sometime around my photo with Helena in Prague, I purchased her autobiography in a bookstore. My level of Czech at that time was very, very minimal, so I got it as a habit (I used to collect tennis everything) and perhaps with the idea of one day knowing enough Czech to understand it.

After some hard time studying Czech and after putting other things from my to-do list behind me, I decided that this academic year (before June 2016), I would attempt to translate her autobiography to make use of that purchase and to share an English version of Helena's story with Tennisforum readers who a) don't have access to the book and/or b) don't comprehend Czech.

The work probably won't start until October, and I admit that my Czech is still not spot on (not even mentioning that I am not a translator by profession), but I promise to attempt this translation. If you are reading it, please let me know so that I feel support and that my efforts are not just an intellectual challenge but something that is positively impacting others out there in cyberworld!!!

Warm regards,
Grafiati
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 8th, 2015, 08:05 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

Well, I support you. I started following tennis in 1985, a year when Helena was considered a potential threat for future number 1. Coming on the heals of her amazing Aussie run of 1984, she made the Slims Championship final the following March, though she lost a routine final to Martina. The rest of her '85 was pretty 'meh, but she really turned it on in 1986, which I think in many ways was her best year. Not only did she defeat Chrissie routinely to make the UO final, but she had Martina on the ropes in the French semis and played Martina tough in both the U.S. Indoor (third set TB) and Eastbourne finals, as well as winning the Canadian, which is probably the most important singles event she ever won. Too bad she played a crap UO final against Martina. Her '87 was pretty strong too, beating both Chrissie and Martina at Eastbourne, but after another dismal loss to Martina in the UO semis that year, she seemed to fall back into the pack and outside of a strong run in Australia in '89 and the aforementioned UO in '93 was never really a contender in singles again.

I could never figure out whether or not she was better than Shriver. Though she made more GS finals, I would argue Pam was the better competitor and match player, which evens out whatever advantages Sukova might have had with regards to groundstrokes. And Helena could never get past the Quarters at Wimbledon.

I would be interested to know what her thoughts were with regards to her fellow Czechs, Navratilova, Mandlikova and Novotna. I always got the impression that Hana and Martina had a mutual respect and camaraderie with one another that they didn't have with Helena which I thought might have had to do with the fact that Helena's father ran the Czech tennis federation and her mom coached all of them.
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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2015, 12:49 AM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grafiati View Post

The reason I have opened this thread is to encourage information, impressions, and stories about her. As a bit of a secret bonus (in my mind; maybe it's only there ), I am promising to fulfill a task I set for myself about ten years ago. Sometime around my photo with Helena in Prague, I purchased her autobiography in a bookstore. My level of Czech at that time was very, very minimal, so I got it as a habit (I used to collect tennis everything) and perhaps with the idea of one day knowing enough Czech to understand it.

After some hard time studying Czech and after putting other things from my to-do list behind me, I decided that this academic year (before June 2016), I would attempt to translate her autobiography to make use of that purchase and to share an English version of Helena's story with Tennisforum readers who a) don't have access to the book and/or b) don't comprehend Czech.

The work probably won't start until October, and I admit that my Czech is still not spot on (not even mentioning that I am not a translator by profession), but I promise to attempt this translation. If you are reading it, please let me know so that I feel support and that my efforts are not just an intellectual challenge but something that is positively impacting others out there in cyberworld!!!

Warm regards,
Grafiati
An ambitious and interesting goal. Go for it, but you might need to be easy on yourself regarding your chosen timeframe. Doing these "serials" on time is harder than it seems at first, especially when the Real World keeps getting in the way.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

I think it's a wonderful project. Helena surely has a unique perspective that isn't largely known, especially in the U.S. I can remember only two major articles about her in US Tennis magazines, a "Tennis" magazine article after her highly successful year in 1986. Also the WTA tour magazine did one after her brief resurgence in the latter part of 1993.

I think that Helena was known as a "party line" kind of woman because of her father, Cyril Suk, being the head of the Czech tennis federation. This was probably both an advantage and a burden for Helena. An advantage because she rarely faced the threats of the Communists about whether or not to allow her to travel freely. A burden, especially in terms of her relationships with fellow Czechs, many of whom did not get along with her father.

Helena was generally known as a nice girl around the tour that rarely gave anyone any problems. That, however, was in stark contrast to the fact that most of her doubles partnerships broke up in an acrimonious manner, only Sanchez could rival her there.

She and Martina had the obvious bond due to Vera Sukova's influence on Martina. However, the single person who probably suffered more than anyone else due to Martina's defection was Vera, who unfortunately died way too soon of cancer. Martina and Helena seemed close in later years, and maybe especially today. But there is no doubt that she was a thorn in Martina's side.

Vera also had coached Hana as well. In fact, Hana spoke highly of Vera. However, she disliked Cyril and had a very up and down relationship with Helena. Helena's record vs. Hana isn't as good as it should have been for a player of that calibur. For whatever reason, Helena didn't seem comfortable playing Hana whereas Hana liked playing Helena. Hana, eventually became Helena's Fed Cup and Olympic coach in 1996. Since then, they seem to be quite close again.

The dynamic between Chris and Helena isn't as obvious. She was a tougher opponent for Chris than most give her enough credit for being. They had a great match at Wimbledon in 1986 and another one at the Lipton in 1988. The Lipton match was said to be the quality of a Wimbledon final according to Bud Collins. Helena had some bad feelings after that match. I suspect she was frustrated with playing Chris in front of a south Florida crowd, which was often less than gracious compared to Chris herself.

It should be mentioned that many have forgotten that Helena achieved the rare feat of beating Chris and Martina back to back to win the 1987 Eastbourne tournament. After such a great 1986, I really thought that she might be a dark horse for winning Wimbledon that year. She lost a long and arduous match on Court 1 to Shriver that was so good that it should've been played on Center. Easily, that was the best womens match at Wimbledon that year.

Steffi seemed to like Helena an awful lot. It was said that Peter Graf wanted Steffi to play doubles with Helena, which they did a few times. At the time that the great partnership of Kohde/Sukova was ending, some thought that Steffi would be the choice. Instead, the Czechs wanted Helena to foster Jana Novotna's emerging career. I believe that had they been able to get along better, they could have stayed together and possibly have been the dominant doubles team of the 90's. I wish that we could have watched them square off against Fernandez/Zvereva a few times.

She is now Dr. Helena Sukova. She wisely saved her money and then used some of it for her education and to start another career. I think that she is an impressive individual, and I would love to read her autobiography to get her perspective.

"I cannot survive in this world with my honesty." Hana Mandlikova
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 10th, 2015, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.

Regarding the timeframe of the translation: I have never done anything like this, so there is no telling how it will work itself out, but I brought up this current academic year (well, it is for most of the world) since I have the book in my possession (it has often been an ocean away) and I am in a place with relatively few distractions.

One thing to add to the comments here: I recall reading that Helena was disconsolate (in tears?)- it may have been in Hard Courts by John Feinstein- after her 1990 Australian Open loss to Steffi. It was a tight match, and Steffi was seemingly distracted/not in great form. Either the either and/or Helena (or was it her coach?) thought it was Helena's best shot at a singles Slam title.
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 01:42 AM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

I love this!!!Thank all of you.
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 02:28 AM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

Someone questioned who the better player was - Shriver or Sukova. Look at the following year end rankings.

1984 - Shriver-4; Sukova-7
1985 - Shriver-4; Sukova-9
1986 - Shriver-5; Sukova-6
1987 - Shriver-4; Sukova-7
1988 - Shriver-5; Sukova-8

While Helena may get more historical props for her grand slam finals, Shriver was more consistently at the top of the game. Plus, Pam had a 9-3 h2h with Helena.

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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 10:12 AM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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Originally Posted by preacherfan View Post
Someone questioned who the better player was - Shriver or Sukova. Look at the following year end rankings.

1984 - Shriver-4; Sukova-7
1985 - Shriver-4; Sukova-9
1986 - Shriver-5; Sukova-6
1987 - Shriver-4; Sukova-7
1988 - Shriver-5; Sukova-8

While Helena may get more historical props for her grand slam finals, Shriver was more consistently at the top of the game. Plus, Pam had a 9-3 h2h with Helena.
Thanks, that's what I was thinking, but too lazy to do the research. It seems when doing "Best Player to Never Win a Slam' Helena's always at near the top of the list because of her four finals whereas Pam is further down because of her one, and also because her game appeared so limited with her slice groundies.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 02:17 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

I look forward to reading your translations Grafiati-a Helena Sukova appreciation thread is long overdue.

Is it ok if we post photos?


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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 02:31 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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Originally Posted by JakeMan90-93 View Post
Thanks, that's what I was thinking, but too lazy to do the research. It seems when doing "Best Player to Never Win a Slam' Helena's always at near the top of the list because of her four finals whereas Pam is further down because of her one, and also because her game appeared so limited with her slice groundies.
And of course she got her final when she was 16 years old amateur and an entire generation literally waited and waited and waited for her to prove it wasn't a fluke.
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 04:48 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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Originally Posted by Grafiati View Post
Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.

Regarding the timeframe of the translation: I have never done anything like this, so there is no telling how it will work itself out, but I brought up this current academic year (well, it is for most of the world) since I have the book in my possession (it has often been an ocean away) and I am in a place with relatively few distractions.
Just don't get discouraged if it takes longer than you thought. Another thing to consider if you are doing this for academic credit is who would have the copyright to your translation under this site's terms of use.

Quote:
One thing to add to the comments here: I recall reading that Helena was disconsolate (in tears?)- it may have been in Hard Courts by John Feinstein- after her 1990 Australian Open loss to Steffi. It was a tight match, and Steffi was seemingly distracted/not in great form. Either the either and/or Helena (or was it her coach?) thought it was Helena's best shot at a singles Slam title.
Helena and her coach and many pundits thought it was her best chance, but there was still the matter of MJF in the final. I think their head-to-head was pretty even and back and forth.
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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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I look forward to reading your translations Grafiati-a Helena Sukova appreciation thread is long overdue.

Is it ok if we post photos?
Of course!
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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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Originally Posted by Ms. Anthropic View Post
Just don't get discouraged if it takes longer than you thought. Another thing to consider if you are doing this for academic credit is who would have the copyright to your translation under this site's terms of use.



Helena and her coach and many pundits thought it was her best chance, but there was still the matter of MJF in the final. I think their head-to-head was pretty even and back and forth.
I am not doing this for anyone other than myself and the readers. I am actually on the teaching side of things (for now) .
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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2015, 08:28 PM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

I find it so ironic that we are talking about Sukova at this moment on the day when Vinci turned Serena's slam dreams to dust

The memory of 1984 is still vivid with me-the earth almost literally shook when Sukova took out Martina in the semifinals in Australia and ended Navratilova's Grand Slam dreams.

I've never seen the whole match. What I've read is that Helena earned the victory and Martina didn't choke.

The similarities end there, as Vinci is nearer the tail end of her career than the start.

Returning to Sukova, for my money she more dangerous than Shriver despite the lopsided head to head. I would also point out that the WTA computer worked to Shriver's advantage, as she avoided clay and entered fewer events on average.

Like most Eastern European players (Jausovec,Ruzici, and Maleeva come to mind) Helena overplayed herself. Why? Was it an Eastern European mentality? Perhaps. Another factor must have been how much the government was taking out of their prize money. Who knows how much they were demanding? Hopefully your translation will provide an answer to that!


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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old Sep 13th, 2015, 02:21 AM
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Re: Helena Sukova's appreciation thread and autobiography

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Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
Like most Eastern European players (Jausovec,Ruzici, and Maleeva come to mind) Helena overplayed herself. Why? Was it an Eastern European mentality? Perhaps. Another factor must have been how much the government was taking out of their prize money. Who knows how much they were demanding? Hopefully your translation will provide an answer to that!
Judging by the number of tournaments Sukova played I don't think there was ever a threat of her travel being curtailed. You are right though, Sukova overplayed in the mid 80's and indeed i remember reading somewhere where Shriver said the same thing.

As for prize money the Czechs were lucky, In that they could keep most of there prize money and indeed i think Miloslav Mecir said he could keep 80 % of his money plus endorsements.

Maleeva on the other hand was able to travel pretty much anywhere after proving her self to tennis authorities in Bulgaria and again was able to keep all her prize money less tax.
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